Saturday, April 19, 2014

See's for Easter: Rocky Road Eggs!

I love all the special chocolate eggs and bunnies that proliferate at Easter Time from well known and lesser known chocolatiers. One of my all time favorite traditional chocolate companies is local See's Candies. I've mentioned them before, but this year I was lucky enough to find a Chocolate Rocky Road Egg in my basket! Rocky Road is a mixture of chocolate, marshmallows and walnuts mixed together. Check out the history of Rocky Road Ice Cream HERE.

This See's Rocky Road Egg isn't ice cream, but it's delicious!!!  It contains honey marshmallow, crunchy California Walnuts and See's signature milk chocolate all hand-decoraded with a candy bouquet. It's 3.7 ounces,.dwarfed only by the huge chicken in my yard! There are other great Easter selections at See's, but this one is my favorite!

Yum!


Easter Brunch Cinnamon Rolls Shaped like a Lamb!

I used to do a lot of bread baking when I was younger. Not so much anymore. However, this recipe is one of my all time favorites to make for Easter BrunchCinnamon Lamb Curls. They're a fun variation on traditional Cinnamon Rolls. They not only taste great but look terrific for the holiday!

This "Cinnamon Lamb Curls" recipe is from Bread Sculpture: The Edible Art by Ann Wiseman (101 Productions, 1975). And, yes, the stains on the page are mine. The book is a wonderful source for bread baking, as well. All kinds of tips on dough, bread making, tools and sculpting bread. If you do an Internet search, you'll probably find a copy of this out of print book. It's a great asset on my shelf. Scroll down for a Chocolate/Cinnamon Alternative to the filling!




And, since this is a chocolate blog, here's a chocolate/cinnamon alternative to the filling in the recipe.

CHOCOLATE CINNAMON 'FILLING' VARIATION

Spread this on the dough before cutting and baking.
Where the recipe says "Spread with butter & brown sugar and cinnamon".. you can substitute:
Sweet butter, room temp (as in recipe)
Then sprinkle with a mix of:
Granulated white sugar
Dark chocolate, chopped fine
Ground cinnamon

Friday, April 18, 2014

National Animal Crackers Day!

Today is National Animal Crackers Day. I remember the unique taste of Animal Crackers during zoo and circus visits. These trips were always exciting, and animal crackers were an important part of the experience, as that was the only time I ate them. I remember the red cardboard boxes with exotic animals and the little flat strings to carry your box.

Today there are many different brands and styles of animal crackers--vegan, chocolate, chocolate covered, covered with icing and sprinkles, and even gluten-free. There's the original Barnum's Animal Crackers, and I really like Barbara's (all natural) Snackimals Double Chocolate and Snackimals Chocolate Chip.

Want to dress up your store-bought Animal Crackers today to celebrate National Animal Cracker Day? Dip the animal crackers in Chocolate:

Chocolate Dipped Animal Crackers

Melt a good dark chocolate in the top of a double boiler over simmering water or in the microwave.
Dip animals and let cool on waxed paper.
You can either dip most of the animal (and use forks or special dipping tools) or just dip the feet as I did with the Walker Scottie Dogs with Muddy Boots. I like Trader Joe's Animal Crackers for chocolate dipping.

Want to get fancier? Healthy Happy Life (Lunchboxbunch.com) has a Chocolate-Covered Vegan Animal Cookies post with great photos and recipes.

There's even a Website devoted to Animal Crackers: www.animalcrackers.net/  There you'll find a variety of recipes for animal crackers such as Homemade Animal Crackers, Oatmeal Animal Crackers, Classic Animal Crackers, Cheese Animal Crackers, Chocolate Animal Crackers, and many others.

COCOA ANIMAL CRACKERS
Recipe adapted from AnimalCrackers.net


Ingredients:
1/3 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 Cup Organic Toasted Rolled Quick Oats
1/2 Cup Real Butter, softened
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Baking Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
3/4 Cup of Cold Whole Milk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In Blender, mix organic toasted rolled quick oats, with flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and kosher salt.
Pulse until base mixture is completely ground up into delicate powder, and color and texture are even and consistent.
Pour mixture into mixing bowl and vigorously stir in cold whole milk and softened real butter. Stir until dough becomes stiff, adding any extra milk if you need to.
Roll animal cracker dough into ball on clean flat surface, then flatten it out into quarter inch thickness.
Using animal cracker or cookie cutters, make as many shapes as you can with the dough.
Place your finished shapes on lightly greased baking sheet. Cook for ten to fifteen minutes, or until crackers are crisp.
Cool on wire wrack for half an hour.

Want to make your own Gluten-Free Animal Crackers? Gluten free on a Shoestring has a wonderful recipe that's actually close in taste to the Barnum's Animal Crackers. Vanilla paste is the great ingredient. Which reminds me I need to do a post on vanilla!.. soon...

Waiter, there's an Animal Cracker in my soup!
Animal Crackers make a great starch for soups and stews. A few years ago, I posted a recipe for a great Chicken Mole Polano made with Animal Crackers.  Or try this recipe for White Chocolate Mole with Animal Crackers.

Want a sweet chocolate soup with Animal Crackers? O. K., this is more of a dessert. This recipe was originally found on the Hershey's Cocoa Box.

CHOCOLATE SOUP WITH ANIMAL CRACKERS

Ingredients
3/4 cups half-and-half
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
2 tsp cocoa
1 egg yolk

Directions:
Heat half-and-half. Pour into bowl, leaving about 1/4 cup in saucepan or cup.
Add sugar, vanilla, cocoa to pan and mix until it is a syrup. Add egg yolk and stir over low heat. Gradually stir in preheated half-and-half. Stir until blended and thick. Pour into bowl.
Top with animal crackers.

Here's a link to several other Cocoa Soup recipes. All go well with Animal Crackers!

Enjoy this video clip of Shirley Temple singing Animal Crackers in my Soup!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

PEEPS S'MORES!

I just love this time of year, because it's all about PEEPS! Read yesterday's post on PEEPS. Last year I posted a recipe for Matzo S'mores Cake, so being in the ecumenical spirit, I thought I'd post two easy recipes for PEEPS S'mores!

I prefer baking PEEPS S'mores in the toaster oven, but you can always microwave them. Just 10 seconds if you do, or they explode. I always use high quality chocolate... o.k. so PEEPS aren't artisan marshmallows, but I love their flavor (and sugar rush)--at least once a year! Do I earn my girl scout S'MORES badge?

1. PEEPS SMORES in the Toaster Oven (or oven)

Ingredients
PEEPS
Graham Crackers
Dark chocolate squares

Directions
Preheat toaster oven to 350°F.
Put chocolate on graham cracker, top with Peep.
Put on aluminum foil covered tray and bake 2 to 3 minutes. Watch because they can burn.
Take out of oven, add another graham cracker and squish.

II. PEEPS S'MORES in the Microwave

Ingredients
PEEPS
Dark Chocolate Squares (or Hershey's Milk Chocolate-the traditional)
Graham crackers

Directions
Put chocolate on graham cracker, add PEEP, put on microwave safe dish and zap in microwave for 10-15 seconds. Watch them.. they can explode if you leave them in too long.
Top with another graham cracker and squish.

And here's a photo of PEEPS vacationing in Bodega Bay! Rabbits beware. The Chicks might join The Birds!